The Supreme Court demonstrated today that it is just as ignorant and arrogant about the federal government’s authority to require by law what it deems “good” behavior as the legislative and executive branches. Chief Justice Roberts justified upholding the individual mandate portion of the law by saying the penalty exacted on people who do not want to follow the mandate is a tax, and therefore constitutionally authorized.
Taxes are already levied on income, property, consumption, and pretty much every other area of American life. What the government had not yet taxed was the act of not participating in some forms of commerce. Today, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of taxation to include failure to consume the “right” goods and services.
In past years, Americans have paid consumption taxes on goods that our government does not think we should have, or thinks we should have less of, like cigarettes and gasoline. In the future, we can expect to also be taxed for not spending “enough” on the “right” things—think vegetables, gym memberships, and charitable donations.
As a libertarian, I believe individuals should control how they spend their money and what risks they should take with their lives, so long as they do not threaten the freedom to others to do the same. But even if I did not support freedom and self-governance on principle, the federal government’s abysmal track record on making decisions about how other people’s money should be spent would be enough to make me fearful of this kind of law.
Our lawmakers are arrogant enough to believe that only they can make good decisions about what products we should buy—that is why they subsidize some products and place tariffs and taxes on others. But the subsidized goods and services are often poor quality—think ethanol gasoline. Subsidies hardly ever disappear, even when they become obviously harmful, because the small number of people who benefit from them fight vigorously to keep receiving taxpayer money.
A healthcare system that is heavily controlled by the federal government is doomed to function—and fail-- like most other government-controlled enterprises. Cronyism will abound as a few wealthy providers lobby the government to become approved national health providers and to place roadblocks in front of smaller companies. The ensuing lack of competition will lead to more expensive and poorer quality goods and services.
The Republican and Libertarian parties will no doubt try to impress upon voters the massive implications of the healthcare law as we draw closer to the November elections. Americans are already wary of big government healthcare, as indicated by declining public support for the law. The Supreme Court ruling is certainly a victory for President Obama today, but it may inspire Americans to consider if the change we’ve gotten, as promised by the President, is the change we want for the next four years.